2010 UKBFF British Championships Review:
Small Wins All!
Well, just got back from another exciting British Championships, this year with a record number of competitors and a new Wheelchair class to add to the hectic two day event. Despite the huge number of competitors and outstanding standard that seems to rise each year, just one single pro card is given out on this weekend would you believe? That's right, not even the ladies get a pro card, they have to go onto prove themselves in international IFBB amateur shows to even hope to be considered for one. Just the overall men's winner gets one so you can imagine just fever pitched and fierce the contest really was. With the judging done on the first day and then the top ten only in each class invited back the second day, the top six are announced, then they pose and then the scores are wiped and re-judged and - for as you know in bodybuilding - a lot can happen in 24 hours...
Under 70kg - Lightweights
In 6th place was new face Henry Vico, he reminded me heavily of 2004 lightweight British Champ Nana Manu both facially and physically - separated at birth maybe I wonders? Great condition and perfect balance, Henry, if he can stay under the 70kg weight limitation could win this class one day if he adds just a few more pounds of muscle in the right places.
In 5th was Anthony Robinson, again, great genetic shape with almost a middleweight's upper body he was that thickly muscled. More size and separation in his legs and we will no doubt see this guy move up the placements.
4th this time was Joel Wright. If memory serves me right I think I've seen Joel compete as a middleweight before this, if that was the case then pulling himself down to the lightweight 70k's was a shrewd move as he certainly gained condition as a result. Chest and back were seriously strong points on Joel, he has just the craziest taper and waist to shoulder ratio, I've always wanted to see him in proper nick (i.e. - condition) and this time he did not disappoint.
In 3rd was pre-contest fave Wade Stafford. I'll be honest, when I heard that Wade was dropping down from the 80kg class to this one I was expecting him to battle for 1st place. When seeing him on the morning in the venue clothed I thought "shit, Wade is on" judging by the sucked in cheekbones and 'shrunken head'-look. But, looking at it now I really don't think him dropping down really did him any favours. He wasn't a whole bunch harder as a result, just smaller and clearly he was flat as a fart.
On the first day I felt Wade would be lucky to even place but on the second he was much, much better. Fuller, a little harder (but not hard enough) and his tan was a lot better thank god. 3rd for Wade this year was a good result for him and he should be pleased, but had Wade been as good as I know he could be, then he would have been pushing for the top spot absolutely no question folks. Right, now here's where things got really exciting and crazy!
Taking the runner-up spot was British finals regular Kit Sae-Yong. Every year Kit turns up with easily one of the most pleasing physiques in British bodybuilding and always places just out of the top 3 but each time it's truly frustrating as he never really turns up in the kind of condition he needs to do himself any real justice. Last year when he placed 4th I said that when Kit finally finds that winning formula and turns up hard as nails then he would be the man to beat in the class at the finals. Well, thankfully Kit was on, and I mean on! On the first day he was good and on the second he was even better, those great shaped quads of his that have mass to spare were razor sharp and he was full-to-bursting and just so great to behold in general.
On the first day I had Kit 2nd, but on the second, well, it easily could have been tipped in his favour. He wasn't a happy bunny, but hey Kit, you've just sussed true contest conditioning finally, come back next year even better and take what is yours!
After ten straight years of failed attempts was veteran UKBFF 70kg competitor Brandon Marjoram. Since 2000, Brandon has each passing year climbed one step higher on the ladder getting higher and higher placements with a better look every time. Last year he took 2nd and told me that this year he prepped with more effort and heart than ever before. Brandon was ready to take this and his condition was unrivalled in the class. Those crazy shredded quads and his ripped all to hell chest and delts, he was psyched to win it even though he said he was nervous as he is one of the lighter guys in the class weighing in only at 66kg, meaning the potentially he could be giving up to 4kg away to his fellow competitors. This was a good win for Brandon and you couldn't help but feel a lump well in your throat when he was announced the winner.
Under 80kg - Middleweights
Last year this was the class from hell with the deepest and most toughly contested class that was widely acknowledged as the best ever. This year was pretty close to that although this time there was no obvious top two or top three, it was anyone's game so of course there were a few judging decisions that weren't popular, but hey, that's bodybuilding for ya!
6th place was Carl McVittie. I felt bad for Carl last year when he turned up on the 2nd day looking amazing but failed to make the top 6. This year however he was back looking every bit as impressive and made the final 6. Not the greatest of tapers, but he is thick and always sliced to ribbons, a good platform for him to move up on for next year.
5th place was flamboyant poser Michael Smith. Now this was a shame for Michael as with his breathtaking shape and lines you know that if much, much harder he would be tough to take on in this category. Smoothness makes me think he was lucky to even place 5th as there were guys with physiques not as nice as Michael's but in so much better condition. I guess it just shows the judges aren't always so concerned with who's the most ripped and emaciated guy on stage.
4th was UKBFF Bedford qualifier overall winner Micky McKay. This was the first time I had seen Micky compete and I was pretty impressed. He's got a lot of proper mature, thick, dense muscle for an 80kg and he clearly gets in awesome condition. Can't really think how I could fault him really or advise on where he goes from here to improve his placing. Keep on keeping on what he's doing I guess!?
Zorro returns! That's what I thought when 3rd placer Medhat Khalil strolled on stage. (But that's my childish mind so please ignore that last comment maybe!) Upper body-wise Medhat was incredible, his back was just unreal - totally huge and what a terrific shape he has, but again, in the upper body! From the waist down he didn't impress me anywhere near as much.
He lacks development and condition in the quads and possesses pretty poor calves. I'd put money on it though that if his legs did end up matching up to his upper half that it would push him up into the light-heavies for sure. One to watch for the future though, definitely.
In 2nd place was last year's intermediate (novice) 80kg runner-up competitor Luke Bagster. I did think Luke had all the boxes ticked to take this class, he's crazy dense when it comes to his entire physique, massive round delts, brutally thick chest and monster legs etc etc. (He's the UK's answer to Ronny Rockel if that gives you a better idea of his type of physique). More tan would easily have helped his chances here, but overall, a great first year in the Misters for super-beefy Luke.
In 1st was surprise (to me anyway) Manuel Gomez. Now I cannot explain why on the first day at the judging that I completely overlooked Manuel. It could be that it's because he is a new face and that I am drawn to possibly different kinds of physiques, I really don't know. But, when he came out in the top 6 the second day I, and a few others in the press row all commented "where did THAT guy come from" as we were suitably impressed! Overall, he was in fact rather difficult to fault - okay he could have been just a tad tighter and his legs could have been better - but this cat was good, really good.
It just shows how sometimes you can miss what is just in front of you doesn't it? Special mention has to go to last year's 3rd placed 80kg competitor and recent IFBB European middleweight champ Stephen Graham from Ireland. I - and several others who might consider themselves experts - possibly did think that Stephen was the winner of this class on this weekend would you believe? I honestly felt that he was improved enough, big enough and sharp enough to take 1st, but as I said before - that's bodybuilding for you! Unpredictable all the way where nothing is ever really 100% for certain.
Under 90kg - Light-Heavyweights
Now this was there things really started heating up with the crowd going progressively crazier and crazier which gave a fantastic atmosphere all round.
In 6th was Mark Westacott. I cannot remember which show I last saw Mark in but I will never forget the fantastic muscularity that he packs. A really great powerful looking shape with some really standout body parts such as that explosive looking chest and them bonkers delts of his.
5th was Will Siddall. When it comes to legs Will wrote the frikkin' book folks! So much size and thickness it is unreal - and the calves are totally sick! Upper body he's good and far more balanced than he ever used to be, I feel 5th was fair as he wasn't in the best condition that he could have been. Lighter and tighter for Will for next and he will take some stopping in this class I guarantee it.
Duplicating his 4th place again this year at the finals was Doug Kelly. You can't really pick fault with Doug's physique in any way. Every bodypart is full and round and developed to the max. Doug always shows up in some of the best condition of any show so you can always count him in for a decent placing.
Now this is where I really felt for the judges and also the final top 3 who were in this class. Normally I can usually eventually make up my mind when I am torn between deciding who I want in what place when at a show. I write down and add up all the plusses and minuses and go from there upon which to form my final opinion. So when I say I was literally changing my mind from one moment to the next I am telling you the absolute truth with these last few extraordinary guys.
In 3rd was 2006 middleweight British Champ and last year's 80kg runner-up (losing by one point) Tony Bailey from Temple Gym in Birmingham. In my prediction leading up the event I thought that Tony would be the man to take the 80kg British title this year. But, Tony did hint earlier in the year that he might struggle to make the weight limit and - as we saw here - moved up a weight class into the light-heavies. As the 1st day's judging wore on I was more and more impressed with Tony thinking on more than one occasion that he would end up being the winner here. His condition was razor-sharp and he's got such a visually pleasing shape with terrific arms and a knockout back that crushes the rest when he hits a rear double bicep pose.
3rd was fair but then so would it have been if he had been 2nd or 1st as well! Can't wait to see him next year when he moves up closer to the under 90kg weight limit as he continues to add size and thickness.
In 2nd was last year's 3rd placed light-heavy and new overall Welsh finals champ Jon Griffith. Now Jon was really on his game here although Jon is always on his game if I really think about it. However, he was even better than when he won the Welsh 4 weeks previously. With improved lats from last year and a perfect colour, condition and presentation, Jon, like Tony was a strong contender for 1st. I'd be interested to see the judging sheets on this one as I bet it was so, so close.
Shape-wise though, Jon is king, everything flows neatly and fits together just so perfectly. Next year will be interesting as he's hungry to win this class AND the overall and that is not too far out of the question folks.
Squeaking first was pre-show favourite and last year's runner-up Dean Lesiak. In the lead-up I felt that this was Dean's class to win or lose depending on how he had improved in this last 12 months. Well, Dean was indeed better than last year, he was bigger and fuller and still managed to retain that killer shape and granite hard condition. He's a joy to watch is Dean, just so polished and pleasing to the eye, I really hope he get's an invite to make the UK amateur Arnold team next March as if he makes top 5 in his class he then is offered the opportunity to turn pro and I would kill to see the other 202 pro's faces when he strips off at his first 202 pro show should he decide to go down that path.
Under 100kg - Heavyweights
It's safe to say this was the most exciting class of the day. Some seriously good guys in this one.
6th went to youngster Max O'Conner. I worked out that ex-Junior British winner Max could only be 23 years old at the very most! Everyone was stunned when he came out totally super-sized and looking every bit the serious men's heavyweight contender. The level of muscularity and development that he had added since winning the Junior title was completely mind-blowing to everyone who had remembered him. Wow, wow, wow is Max getting good - and fast! The sheer amount of size and fullness he was carrying especially in his legs was truly awesome, I had Max making top 6 easy-peasy and I'm glad the judges saw fit to do that too. Man, imagine what he'll be like in another couple of years and he'll still be nowhere near 30!?
Taking 5th was crowd fave Wayne Niemiec. There was actually some booing when Wayne was announced in 5th by I thought it was very fair. Wayne's got some great legs on him and his shoulder width is a show stopper, but more torso thickness is needed for him to be a real threat for top honours in this class. Still, a good showing for Wayne and a gold star for some truly hardcore conditioning! Respect.
In 4th was last year's 6th placed heavyweight Dotun Diya. Last year many felt Dotun deserved higher and again this year general consensus was that Dotun is not getting placed where he deserves. He's one of those quiet guys who you never really hear much about and who no one really talks about as any kind of threat, but each year turns up bigger, harder and just well, better every year! As soon as Dotun starts posing your eyes are drawn to his impressive shape and collection of body parts like his remarkable arms and his phenomenal back shots that most pro's would be properly envious of! I can't pick fault as he was hard-as-nails and just simply fantastic. More of the same from Dotun will see him continue to move up next year, that is for certain.
3rd place was the much talked about return of 1992 light-heavy British champ Cecil Croasdaile. Earlier in the year Cecil came back with a real bang taking down all-comers in two shows in quick succession and winning them with ease showing us all what he had been doing during all his years away from the stage - i.e. - Growing like a mofo! He was barely recognisable to those earlier glory days - and all for the right reasons too. Unbelievable legs and simply out of this world arms! Condition-wise Cecil did not disappoint here, my only criticism for Cecil was chest and back which really do need more thickness if he wants to walk away with this title next year or the year after.
Right, now here's where things got very controversial and quite manic indeed. For the past 5 years, last year's heavyweight runner-up Barney Duplessis has placed either 3rd or 2nd in the British. He used to compete as a light-heavy, then last year moved up to the under 100kg heavyweights and as I mentioned took 2nd by the skin of his teeth and really did not impress anyone with his condition which to be frank was pretty piss-poor. Eager to redeem himself, this year Barney had worked like a maniac taking himself to some very dark places in his mind no doubt to produce the kind of look that he wanted and succeeded in producing here on this weekend. As soon as he walked out it was hard to even realise that this was the same guy even as last year he was totally revamped and overhauled in every way.
The new look paid off with an infinitely more shocking appearance. He was completely shredded, sliced all to buggery in fact! His lines were taken ten fold over last year and just every body part so deeply separated it looked like it hurt whenever he flexed there was so much going on and so much jumping and popping out all over the place. On the second day Barney was even tighter again with a perfect tan and 'glaze' which complimented the entire package that I and a LOT of people there felt was to be the number one on stage. However, it wasn't to be and when he realised he had placed 2nd it hit him like a ton of bricks and straight in the balls too it looked that painful to witness.
You had to feel for the guy, he was just so improved when everyone wrote him off after last year's poor showing and gift placement with everyone talking about "Cecil this" and "so and so that". Still, he should take some advice of Zack Khan who patiently played bridesmaid for 9 years before finally being awarded the British title. Personally, I'd like to see Barney get an invite to the Arnold amateur next year as I think he would go down a storm if he turned up again there like on this weekend. Still, an invite to compete in an IFBB show in 2 weeks on Holland and a photo-shoot with Kevin Horton the morning after the show should soften the blow I'd have hoped.
Winning this class on this weekend was the extremely formidable Haroldas Dambrauskas (originally from Lithuania). I first say Haroldas compete in the Leeds British qualifier in late 2008 and I was blown away by this guy - he literally looks like a Michelin man or a cartoon character. His level of mind boggling muscle size is simply jaw-dropping and fast forward two years later and here he was again - only even bigger! Impossible to fault bodypart-wise and when it comes to proportion; despite all this I wasn't quite as wowed this time around as I thought I would be. I'm a huge fan of the muscle freaks but not when it's at the expense of true razor blade sharp, granite-hard conditioning.
Haroldas was lean, yes, but he was not 'hard' as I might define it in bodybuilding. With someone of Haroldas' extreme size he could afford to do a 'Dorian' and drop 10-15 pounds of bodyweight which would be 80% muscle and would not only still be the biggest thing by far on stage, but would make him totally and utterly untouchable. By showing up like this it gave Haroldas a win that was far too close for comfort for someone of his calibre. Dorian didn't take chances and chose to always go beyond what many would consider 'good condition' to take it to another level altogether, so why take chances at any level when you have this much talent?
Over 100kg - Super-Heavyweights
The supers! Although this class was marred slightly by the absence of 2007 heavyweight British champ and one of the two pre-contest favourite's to take this class; Daz Ball (following an unfortunate bicep tear whilst putting dumbbells away in his gym several weeks out from the finals) this was nonetheless a far bigger thriller of a ride than I previously anticipated.
Taking 6th this time was monster 'super' Dave Talbot. Dave must surely be tipping the scales at over the 280lbs mark and as always yet again he was in super-tight condition. Not the prettiest of shapes admittedly but he's taken what he has and super-sized it tenfold!
In 5th was another big mother in the form of Martin Stevenson. Again, like Dave, not the most blessed of structures or tapered or pretty shapes but who bloody cares when you're this big? I know I wouldn't!
Qualifying earlier in the year as a heavyweight here was a drastically bigged-up version of what I saw from first time Misters competitor Steve Taylor. Steve is fun to look at as he has some really, really uniquely freakish body parts like his super-ten inch thick chest that you can actually see the top of even when he does a rear double bicep and these massive billowing quads and scary calves (and so on). The condition on Steve was notable and he seems to be growing at a super-fast rate, I can't wait to see how he will look next year!
In 3rd and for me one of the most shocking surprises of the entire weekend was first time Misters competitor Ali Ajaf from Muscleworks gym in London. From seeing Ali compete in the novices not too many years ago I would never have been able to predict that he would end up a super-heavyweight and still successfully retain his aesthetically pleasing look and tiny waistline. He gave no size away to the monsters in this class and I had him a good solid second place. Such dimensions with such lines are rare, but Ali has it and boy does he do it with style too! He will be back and that is a seriously thrilling thought for next year's finals!
Taking the runner-up spot was Mr Consistent and Mr Hardcore himself big Dean McTernan. You couldn't help but feel good for Dean. For countless years this guy has taken what many might consider maybe slightly above average genetics, turn it on its head and every year coming back over and over with a more improved physique every single time. He never moans or whines about his places, he just goes back to the drawing board each year and hammers away to come back bigger and better.
Easily 280lbs on stage, Dean is always a crowd favourite and was one of the first people I went backstage to congratulate after the show was finished. He said he will be back even better next year and when Dean says that, you know he means it!
Winning this class and going on to win the big one - the overall and IFBB pro card - was former heavyweight British Champion (2008) Alvin Small! For anyone who knew their stuff, it was clear that this entire contest was Alvin's to win or lose with his biggest obstacle being himself! We all knew that with Alvin's striking lines (for such a big guy), and mega-mass that all he had to do was turn up bang on the money and then nothing would stand in his way of achieving his dream of winning the British overall title. Following a 2nd place last year that gave new pro Zack Khan a few sleepless nights last year Alvin took no chances this year by showing up in anything but stellar shape.
I saw improvements in his legs, his level of separation, and his back and generally this was all done with obvious careful precision and care to ensure that he didn't lose what is most definitely his calling card which is his small waist and aesthetics that you so rarely see on a colossus of a man of these dimensions. As for his routine, well, he brought the house down as he commanded the stage and the entire audience. A nice win for a super-nice and extremely cool guy that the sport needs plenty more of to help it grow. Finally, Alvin is an IFBB pro and folks watch out as he's coming to an IFBB show sooner than you might think!
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